Donald Trump’s Twitter feed was radio silent Tuesday morning after LaVar Ball challenged the role the president played in helping his son return from China following a shoplifting scandal abroad. It may have been the first indication that the president had finally met his match in the most unlikely of figures: a loud-mouthed Black entrepreneur who was every bit the showman that Trump is, and then some.
Ball went on CNN Monday night and asked why he should thank the president, who has said he helped negotiate the release of LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA college basketball players who were accused of stealing from a high-end retail store in Hangzhou earlier this month.
“What did he do for me?” LaVar asked Chris Cuomo incredulously.
In taking on the president, the man who has mastered the art of trolling has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from the free publicity and exposure for his company, Big Baller Brand, which he plugs every chance he gets. Adding more insult to injury, LaVar is likely everything the president seems too resent about Black people — he’s an upwardly mobile African-American married to a White woman, a father to biracial kids and the owner of a thriving business experiencing success that Trump has unwittingly contributed to.
LaVar is juicing this moment for all its worth.
Lest we forget LaVar was in China with his family’s reality TV show camera crew in tow. While it’s doubtful LiAngelo’s arrest was a planned stunt to be exploited on TV at a later date, it is all but a foregone conclusion that LiAngelo’s arrest will now definitely be exploited on TV at a later date.
On the other hand, at this point we’d be naïve to think that Trump didn’t immediately reach for low hanging fruit when he learned that three Black teenage college basketball players were locked up in China at the same time he just happened to be there. When those dots were connected, the narrative switched to one that could star Trump as the savior in chief while he was abroad putting America first. It may have been the latest in a series of apparent, perfectly timed car wreck-esque distractions coinciding with past (but actually still current) controversies, like how he’s been navigating the sex assault waters that are systematically drowning powerful men around the world (except himself, of course).
The controversy over the arrests really grew some legs when LaVar downplayed it as not being “that big a deal.” He continued with the blasé approach to the arrests when interviewed on CNN Monday night, asking some valid questions of the president’s behavior.
As shown from the above, in a sick kind of way, both men are actually a lot alike: Each is a narcissistic, pompous, loud-mouthed father of three boys who have gone out of their way to make sure their sons get a piece of the family pie. For Trump, it’s the White House. For Ball, it’s Big Baller Brand.
In the end – which is actually very likely not to be anywhere near the end – LaVar had nothing but well wishes for the president during the holiday weekend.
But either way, the situation has blown up in Trump’s face, with a defiant LaVar relishing the limelight of engaging in a war of words with the president of the United States.